HomeKit For iOS 9
This is one of those technological developments that really drives home the sense that the future is now. I can remember thinking how cool this would be years ago if you could control your home while being away from it. Apple has helped to make this a reality with HomeKit which was first introduced in iOS 8. HomeKit is Apple’s framework that enables apps to interact with HomeKit enabled accessories easily and securely.
The latest version of HomeKit for iOS 9 provides some interesting improvements. It provides a common protocol that allows developers to add custom features and still be HomeKit enabled. Their apps interact with iOS bringing home automation to a much wider audience than ever before. This also provides a more consistent experience for Apple customers by providing a common view of the home and all of its HomeKit enabled applications.
Privacy and security have always been a priority and all data is local to the device so it remains private and secure. An added bonus in this update is if an app uses one of Apple’s predefined profiles, Siri can be used with the application as well.
Lights, locks, thermostats and more can be controlled remotely via apps. Although this in itself is not new, what is new in HomeKit for iOS 9 is covered below and includes support for new accessory types and easy ways to setup and manage accessories remotely.
- Display relevant capabilities of a specific user
- Determine a user’s privileges
Currently, you can create scenes, for example, a “Good night” scene where you can control
- Lights off
- Lock doors
- Lower shades
- Close garage
- close gates
- Switch off
- Temp down
- All of these are activated with a single command.
In iOS 9 this is taken further with four predefined scenes based on common events that take place every day.
- Get up
- Go to bed
Developers can now provide meaningful suggestions in their apps based on these common events. Predefined scenes cannot be deleted.
Scenes and Siri
Siri understands the names of scenes so merely speaking the name of a scene allows Siri to execute it.
When adding an accessory, HomeKit now provides a visual queue to help the user identify the type of accessory being added.
Accessory Categories are available during setup and specify the primary category of the accessory, like Light or Fan for example.
HomeKit on Apple Watch
HomeKit is now available on watchOS. Let’s say you left your home for a bit and returned and realized you don’t have your iPhone with you. No worries, just unlock your door from your Apple Watch.
All home data is mirrored on the Apple Watch. The capabilities from the Apple Watch include:
- View home
- Control accessories
- Execute scenes
Events activate a trigger. An event can be the state of an accessory or a geofence, so once you enter or exit a predetermined zone the event is triggered.
Three types of conditions are supported:
- Time based
- Within Time Based conditions, the predicates of Before Date, After Date and On Date are supported.
- State of an accessory, on or off.
- Significant events
Event triggers using HomeKit Catalog
- Remote Access
- Control secured access when away from the home through Apple TV or if no Apple TV, you can use HAP access protocol over iCloud.
- Bluetooth Low Energy
- Let’s say you have a Bluetooth door lock with a range of 20 feet or so. You can extend this range with HAP secure tunneling. This enables an intermediate device that associates a low energy Bluetooth device as an object over WiFi to an iOS device, extending its range. This range extender also allows secured remote access when away from home. There is also support for notifications, metadata for custom characteristics and multiple transports.
Support for new accessory categories to support more devices
- Window coverings
- Doors & Windows
- Alarm systems
- Air quality
- Programmable switches
Developers have access to new tools:
- HomeKit Accessory Simulator (HAS)
- HomeKit Accessory Tester (HAT)
- Updated Specifications and tools at MFi Portal
- MFi Program
It will be interesting to see what developers will bring to their HomeKit enabled devices once iOS 9 has been released to the public. The future is now. Siri—”Good night”.